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Shortbread without electric mixer?

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I have a recipe for shortbread that requires beating the dough for 20 minutes with an electric mixer on paddle setting. Is there anything I can do by hand to substitute for this, as I don't have a mixer.

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  1. Twenty minutes with an electric mixer seems excessive for anything I can think of. The shortbread recipe I use doesn't specify using an electric mixer, merely directs the cook to cream the butter and sugar. So I cream it by hand using a wooden spoon, until the mixture is fluffy and the graininess from the sugar is gone, or until my arm gives out. Results in perfect shortbread every time.

    4 Replies
    1. re: janniecooks

      Thanks, I'll try that. Do you also chill the dough before baking?

      1. re: bythebay

        No, I roll it out right away. Shortbread is very simple and easy, what is your recipe? I just use butter, sugar and flour. Cream butter and sugar, mix in flour, roll out, cut up, poke holes in it, sprinkle with sugar and bake. These come out delicious, not like hockey pucks!

        1. re: janniecooks

          A non hockey-puck texture is always good ;) Our recipe is not the traditional recipe... has cornstarch, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla...

          1. re: janniecooks

            My recipe said to use powdered sugar but I mistakenly used regular. When I tried it again with powdered it worked well. The recipe does say to chill the dough for a bit though. I can't remember if I did so the second time, but there was a huge improvement after I used the right sugar and followed the tips here.

      2. I agree entirely with janniecooks. I would suspect that beating as long as the recipe suggests is to ensure that all of the sugar is incorporated and no longer grainy. Thoroughly creaming the butter/sugar using a spoon (wooden if you like, other material if you prefer) until the graininess of the sugar disappears should work just fine.

        1. My mom taught me to cream by hand with a wooden spoon, using the back of the spoon to smear the butter and sugar together against the side of the bowl. Creaming is different than just beating.

          1. Thanks guys. I'm awful at baking but lately have had such the urge for it, but my creations keep coming out poorly. I'm starting to think maybe I don't have the personality for it (too impatient?) but maybe it's just lack of experience. I'm going to use the wooden spoon and see how I do. Thanks a lot for the tips.

            2 Replies
            1. re: bythebay

              Make sure your butter is at room temperature before you start. (It's better not to nuke it unless you're really in a rush, because the texture is better if it softens naturally.) Once the butter is very soft, it will be much easier to cream with the sugar.

              1. re: Isolda

                If the butter is too cold, you can use the large holes on a box grater to shred it--will help a lot to soften the butter quickly without the risk of melting that occurs in the microwave.

            2. BytheBay, my family whipped shortbread recipe also calls for being beaten for quite a while (although 20 minutes is excessive... think that 5 is the longest that I've ever done). My father also used to make it without a mixer, and it frankly wasn't as good (his wife compared them to hockey pucks).. just didn't get as light and fluffy, whereas the whipped ones melted in your mouth. There are quite a few shortbread recipes that aren't as light... maybe try one of those?
              Even though he didn't have a mixer, he made great chocolate chip cookies with the recipe from the back of the Chipets package, so it's definitely possible to make fantastic cookies without a mixer...

              1. Thanks everyone. I gave it another try (last time I tried it it came out more like a wafer than a cookie) and it was much better this time.

                1. My shortbread recipe doesn't take any beating, and I love it:

                  1 c butter, rm. temp., 3/4 c sugar, 1/2 c cake flour, 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour, sifted

                  Mix all ingredients together until consistency is like putty. Pat or roll about 1/4" thick onto ungreased cookie sheet. Prick dough all over with a fork. Score into squares or diamonds. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350. Remove from oven & cut through completely. Remove onto wire racks and let cool completely. Store in airtight containers.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Michelly

                    This is similar to my recipe, and it's delicious. Love it with macerated strawberries and freshly whipped cream (with a tiny splash of rose water). I always chuckle when I see questions re: can I do x without y equipment: my grandmother didn't have electricity or running water, yet she turned out exquisite baked goods (on a wood stove, no less) and monster-sized dinners every day. Now maybe she couldn't sous vide, but...

                    1. re: pine time

                      My mother would be horrified at working a shortbread dough that long or with anything that vigorous. She always told me to do it with a light hand once the flour was in.

                    2. re: Michelly

                      If I want to use cookie cutters before baking rather than scoring it that should work fine too, right?

                      1. re: bythebay

                        If cutting with cookie cutters, I would chill the dough 10 - 20 minutes first, and depending on how fast you can cut and get the cookies onto the baking sheet, you may have to add a bit to the baking time.

                        1. re: Michelly

                          Thank you!